The Boardmaker listserve has been busy again today. I finally had to make myself stop checking my email so I could get other things done! HA HA Some of the topics that came up today were designing communication materials and choosing content, favorite switch/cause effect activities, SMART board activities, and how do you store all your symbols/pix/Boardmaker stuff? I think I'll start with storage since that is a HUGE issue in my room, which is basically four walls with a bathroom attached. No built-in cabinets or shelves at all. I'll blog about some of the others later.
For all our communication gear, including VOCAs, picture symbols and photographs, object symbols, and the ubiquitous velcro, I purchased a matching set of drawers and cabinets from Wal-Mart. The 3 drawer unit has lesser used picture symbols and photos in the top drawer, velcro supplies in the middle, and non voice output switches and switch-related things in the bottom (each switch is contained in it's own zippy bag to keep it from getting tangled with all the others). The cabinet has all the VOCAs (when they're not in use around the room anyway), switch mounts, and anything that doesn't readily fit in the drawers. We covered the outside of the cabinets with soft velcro and that's where we keep all the pictures we use on a regular basis (grab-and-go format). They are divided into categories, thanks to one of my paras (toys/leisure, social, wants/needs, etc. plus a section just for the 1.5" pictures; the others are all 3"). The cabinets are in the middle of the room in front of the teacher desk so we're able to use all three sides. On top is a plastic drawer that contains our object symbol collection and a bin that holds the velcro boards when they're not in use. In addition there is a box that contains pictures for the toy choices for the "toy tunnel" (an actitunnel from Adaptivation) since we use a lot of Lilli Nielsen's active learning techniques with the kids. In addition to the Communication Center, each student also has a work bin where their curriculum materials are kept. Work bins are also covered with velcro and we stick related pictures there too. Food/meal time related pictures are kept in our "kitchen" area (if you can call a microwave and refrigerator a kitchen). And hallway-related pictures are kept on a velcro strip by the door.
So that just leaves the drawer stuffed with lesser used pictures. We used to store them by categories in envelopes but the collection is so big now that it's easier to make new ones than go find the old ones. This year's project is going to be sorting them all into 3 ring binders using sheet protectors covered in velcro to mount them. I'll stick a (hopefully) color coded piece of card stock inside the sheet protector to give it some stability then we'll categorize the pictures and put them in ABC order. This will also be an opportunity to weed out the pictures that are in bad shape, are no longer relevant, or are the wrong size.
I also have a 3 ring binder just for News-2-you activities. I don't usually laminate these pictures as they are generally for short term use. I stick in a copy of the newsletter plus ideas for related activities. There's an envelope for related vocabulary pictures too.
We also use a lot of environmental communication so there are pictures stuck all over the place, on walls, on equipment, on toys, etc. to encourage independence and initiation. I know I have lots of other ways that I organize pictures for various tasks that will hit me as soon I step into my classroom tomorrow. :)
I don't know that there's any one good way of doing this. You just have to use what works for you. I, especially, am really bad about remembering to put pictures and other communication materials back in their centralized storage place, usually leaving them where I've been using them, and our SLP always manages to hide them in weird places (one reason why I generally make at least four copies!). There is nothing I hate more than having a teachable moment lost because I can't find the picture I need! Grab-and-go works well for us. Other ideas I've seen include using various storage boxes with compartments and pocket charts (I have a special love for pocket charts but can never quite make them work for me).